To Hell With Expectations

Expectations make no sense. Someone imagines an outcome and one is supposed to satisfy it ?

I was talking to a friend recently and he was lamenting about this so-called minimalistic lifestyle. He did not know too much about it and against my better judgement, I argued with him about how minimalism might be the closest solution to making one’s life simple and clutter free. Neither of us won the argument, as is often the case, but one thing that he said stuck with me.

One of his reasons for opposing minimalism, was that it goes against your peers’ expectations of you. His point was that one cannot deny the reasonable expectations that people around you have from you – do you own a decent car or do you go on exotic vacation often. You will lose their respect or be seen as a failure if you don’t satisfy these expectations. This is actually a valid point. It can even be expanded to things beyond just personal possessions; There are expectations attached to all components of our daily lives. Consider these:

  • Your friends won’t hang out with you if you don’t behave in a certain way.
  • Parents expect you to get a good education and a great job in some reputable firm and make more money than the children of your parent’s friends and neighbors.
  • You are expected to play along with the office politics if you want to get ahead, or in some cases, even to just survive.
  • You can come up with many more instances where you are always judged against expectations.

Your peers – friends, family, colleagues – judge you on a scale that defines the acceptable parameters for any potential member of that group. If you want to roll with these people you have to meet these criteria. This applies to schools, colleges, work place and relationships. By failing to meet these requirements you risk your social status, and by default, your membership to the clan and you forfeit the clan benefits like respect and approval. From my friend’s point of view, these benefits were non-negotiable. For him, to exist is to be respected by one’s peers and to be respected, one needs the membership.

These membership parameters – your salary, car, smart phone – were not written by some zen grand master. These were selected simply because they were the most common choices. Nobody expects you to have a Ferrari, unless you are living in a community where everyone has expensive sports cars. Often times people just do things because that’s how everyone does it. They don’t even consider that there are other, potentially better, options.

In reality, there are many types of memberships. There are all kinds of clans – peer groups – that have their own scale of parameters. If you can define your criteria, you can probably find a clan that matches those. Find which life choices are important to you and actively seek a clan that matches those attributes. Or better yet, create your own clan. You might even end up creating a religion. [see Christ, Jesus]

In most cases, these things are just tough choices. Choices that most people never explore, simply because they are inconvenient, impractical or unfashionable. There is no reason why everyone needs to do it.

Do you know Chris Guillebeau? He is the guy who one day decided that he won’t need a home, or a regular job, or a car like everyone else. He decided to use his time to visit as many countries as possible (the count is more than 150 now). He wrote A Brief Guide to World Domination – a free e-book about truly taking over the world’s collective mind. In the world of blogs he is kind of a big deal.
Over at his ‘Art Of Non-Conformity’ blog, he lists things that are optional.

  • Cars
  • Credit Cards
  • Houses
  • Bank Accounts
  • Phones
  • Insurance
  • Email

For many, these are indispensable items in today’s world. Phones and Email are on that list, for god sakes. Those are mandatory membership parameters right? Not for Chris. And I would guess the same for any one who wants to live an unconventional life.

An important thing about making tough choices, is that you are opposing the majority. The majority really doesn’t like it when someone does that. Not unless you prove to be successful. Then suddenly, the majority integrates your choice and makes it conventional wisdom. Until someone else comes along to buck the expectation. So there really is no point in worrying about the majority’s immediate reaction.

Like Chris says, live the life you want to live. There is no point in living it for others.

[Post: 134 of 365] [Days Missed: 50]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or show me a good place to sell my old video games.

10 comments

  1. Yeah the sort of stuff they make you do to get approval…

  2. Anonymous · ·

    this from a guy who just bought a iphone “4.5s” and not wait for 5 just because…. wait for it……
    Peer Pressure. Dude be the change dont just give free advise, we get that a lot already.

    1. ok, i’ll admit. That stung a bit.
      May be a little background might help. I have been waiting to buy an iPhone since the first one came along in 2007. I have been putting off buying it for some reason or the other. It had reached a point where I was literally thinking about it everyday. There was probably a bit of peer pressure involved – my friends, family tease me about not buying the phone every year even though I tell everyone that I am going to buy it for sure – but I don’t think it played any significant role.
      You are right that I’m just adding free advise. Truth be told, almost all of the stuff I write is advise for myself :) I get all excited when, by accident, it helps out some one out there.
      BTW, how did you comment without adding your name or email id ? Usually WordPress filters comments without valid id, but not this time. Care to share the trick ?

      1. Anonymous · ·

        I just posted it as a guest.

        I know the history but let me explain my case
        You have a ipod, GPS and a old phone. – the phone has a problem, the best solution would have been buy a phone for 30 dollars and be done with it. But what did you do, but a iphone – $199, pay data plan $25 extra per month. This my friend is no where near “minimalistic lifestyle”.

      2. Well, technically the best option is to go with a free phone that comes with two year contract which I was going to get anyway there by getting a newer phone without spending extra. Better yet, I could have moved to a different wireless company that has lower charges.
        You are right, this may not be minimalistic, but what if I sell my iPod, GPS and anything else that the iPhone’s functions can replace? would that make it worth it? may be or may be not. The point, its not necessary for me to meet what your definition of minimalistic lifestyle is. I can be completely wrong about it, but still its my way of life so I get to define it. I can be wrong from your point of view, but that does not matter. What is important is that I should do what is right to my point of view.

  3. There are certain things you do that are based on expectations. Like Indian parents expecting their kids to study, get a job or get married.But It’s naive to do other things you mentioned(car, dress, home etc) based on someone else’s expectation. Though most of the things you mentioned or necessities these days. Thinking that others would expect you to be a certain way is ‘Maya’. The other day a friend of mine said, ” I haven’t ironed my shirt today, everyone’s gonna think I am not neat”. I asked him ” how many times have you paid attention to a stranger’s shirt when you are walking in the street?” he said ” almost never” . That’s true, it’s just our imagination people would expect us to be of certain way. These days everyone is too busy to pay attention to what you have. Though my argument looks different, the underlying point is ” I agree with you , to hell with the expectations”

    1. Right on buddy.
      But why give an exemption to parents? Shouldn’t one ignore their expectations as well when it runs against one’s own convictions?

  4. [...] To Hell With Expectations (scriblinmind.wordpress.com) [...]

  5. Hi Kanth
    The expectations run in the Indian Parent-hood almost naturally. I read an one-liner in my friend’s facebook status : “In Taiwan, China its a news if parents don’t accept a relationship, In India it would be a news if they actually accept a relationship :P” Good post btw :)
    And yeah, YAAY for ur Siri! So how is she talking? having all fun as in those Youtube videos?? :D

    1. Thats a good one Ravi. Yeah, I have been playing with Siri, although my Indian accent is not making it any easier :) By the way, yours was the hundredth comment for this blog. Thanks and congrats mate.

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